Thomas Cup: Malaysia edge Japan to top group

BANGKOK, May 12 — Sambal is definitely spicier than wasabi!

Malaysia exacted revenge for their 1-4 drubbing by Japan in the last edition’s group stage in Aarhus, Denmark, after edging the 2014 champions 3-2 to emerge as Group D champions of the 2022 Thomas Cup Finals in Impact Arena here.

Team captain Aaron Chia, who combined with his former partner in the 2018 edition, Teo Ee Yi, stole the show as they rose to the occasion to deliver the third and winning point for Malaysia in the fourth match.

Aaron-Ee Yi, who were fielded as Malaysia’s second doubles, proved their mettle by surviving a nerve-wrecking contest to overcome Akira Koga-Yuta Watanabe 20-22, 21-17 in 50 minutes.

Aaron was pleased that they defied the odds by beating Koga-Watanabe, who on paper had a slight advantage over them.

Aaron said the presence of Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) doubles coaching director Rexy Mainaky near the court motivated them to give a sterling performance.

“Coach Rexy always reminded us to remain strong mentally, not to give up easily,” he told reporters when met after the match at the mixed zone here.

Earlier, Malaysia’s professional singles ace Lee Zii Jia provided a bright spark for the national team as he clearly dominated the first match against an off-form Kento Momota.

The world number six Zii Jia was truly on fire from the beginning, with Momota trailing eight points in the early stage of the first game before the Malaysian eventually won 21-17.

Nothing went well for world number two Momota as he looked a ghost of his former self in the next game, allowing Zii Jia to batter him 21-8 to give Malaysia the lead.

Despite beating Momota convincingly, Zii Jia believed that the Japanese player would return to his best soon

Malaysia’s strategy to field German Open 2022 men’s doubles champions Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani as the main doubles paid dividend as they stunned reigning world champions Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi to double the lead for Malaysia.

The world number 13 Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin put up a dazzling display to notch their first ever win in three meetings against world number four Hoki-Kobayashi since they first met in the 2017 French Open.

Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin took the first game 21-19 and the second game 21-16 to put Malaysia two up.

Veteran shuttler Liew Daren then failed to carry Malaysia’s winning momentum as he opened the door for Japan to narrow the scoreline to 2-1, losing 16-21, 20-22 to 2021 French Open winner Kanta Tsuneyama.

After Malaysia had already killed off Japan’s hope to top the group following the impressive victory by Aaron-Ee Yi, a defiant Kenta Nishimoto still gave his best to beat Leong Jun Hao 21-6, 19-21, 21-15 to make the score look more decent for Japan.

In another Group D match, England ended their campaign by finishing third as they brushed aside the United States 4-1. — Bernama

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